Does It Take the Patience of an Albatross to Travel These Days?

Do you have the patience of a Laysan albatross? Can you sit in one spot for two weeks? That’s not even a long stint for Laysan albatross parent incubating an egg. Can you go days between meals? That’s what a Laysan albatross chick has to do while awaiting the return of a full-bellied parent.

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On a recent trip to the mainland, I sat an airport for what seemed like weeks and went without food for what seemed like days. Thing is, my canceled and delayed flights didn’t occur on just one leg of my trip. Both my outbound and return journeys—each made up of two flights–were delayed 12 hours. And not for “acts of God,” I might add.

But that’s not what surprised me the most. What I didn’t realize until my plane touched down in Honolulu at 1:25 a.m. was how unmoved everyone was about the canceled and delayed flights. Sure, there was one guy in Los Angeles who got a little hot under the collar. But barely.

I managed the calm of a Laysan albatross for the outbound portion of my travel itinerary. I didn’t have a grandchild’s graduation or a business meeting to attend. I didn’t have two children under the age of three traveling with me. And, besides, I’m not your typical flyer. I actually like flying. I like planes. I like airports.

On my return trip, though, I got a little annoyed, and I blasted the airline on my Twitter feed. To the airlines’ credit, someone actually responded to my tweets. But whoever was authoring the airlines’ tweets couldn’t find a crew. They couldn’t fix the plane’s broken cargo door. And they didn’t hold my connecting flight to Lihue, which I missed.

How does an airline get away with gross operational practices and stay in business? It didn’t used to be this way. When flights were canceled and/or routinely delayed for long periods of time, people used to get upset—really upset, so upset, it was scary, at times. What’s happened to that anger?

My friend Sherilyn answered one of my tweets, suggesting we travelers are just too beat up to cause a ruckus anymore. And I see her point—baggage fees, preferred seating upgrades, and TSA.

By the time my flight left Los Angeles for Hawaii, I was starting to think about safety. With pilots running from one gate to the next—as a plane full of passengers sat patiently waiting. With flight attendants called in on their days off. And with delays due to a stuck baggage doors and who knows what else. How safe is air travel these days?

Obviously, I made it home safely, and I will also add that even though my record hadn’t been flagged for a hotel voucher–so I could catch four hours “sleep” in Honolulu before jumping on an (on-time) Hawaiian Airlines flight to Lihue—the gate agent on the grossly negligent airlines presented one to me as I stepped off the very late airplane. Thank you Frank.

My husband picked me up from the Lihue, Kauai, airport and took me straight to an 8:30 a.m. appointment that I had made weeks before—with the dentist, of all people. So, yes, there was more pain, even after I arrived home.

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And the next day, a team of us banded this season’s Laysan albatross chicks that will take flight in the next month or so for their very first time. When they do, they will soar over the sea for three to five years before touching land again. They will spend another three to five years participating in courtship dances before settling down with one on a nest. And they seem to do it all with grace and ease. Laysan albatrosses have a lot to teach us. Patience is only one of their virtues.

What’s your patience with airlines these days? How long does a flight have to be delayed before you lose your patience? And why do you suppose we are more patient with flight delays in this day and age?

4 thoughts on “Does It Take the Patience of an Albatross to Travel These Days?

  • I always book direct flights if I can help it. Fewer chances for them to delay or cancel. And I also fly Hawaiian as much as possible, they’re the best! But for those times when I don’t – like on our way to Ireland (3 connections) when we are delayed, I found that the 800# was useless. The agents on twitter actually did rebook my flight for me. Although it took some arm twisting to even get a $7 meal voucher. Like $7 would pay for an airport meal, ha! Grrrr. (I’m obviously not one of those who take delays and poor customer service in stride!)

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    • You bring up a good point, Malia. It would seem that social media would force business to be better–like citizen police. But it just doesn’t seem to be the case with the big gorilla airlines.

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  • Yes, I stand by my first comment about being a beaten down traveler. Usually, I’m some corporate weenie stuck somewhere and what am I going to do? Yell at some other corporate weenie stuck behind the counter? That doesn’t help anyone. BUT, I think my smartphone also makes me a more patient traveler. If I don’t know whether the wait is 20 minutes or 20 hours, at least I have my phone. (I always travel with a charger and an external battery.) I can scan Facebook, Tweet, type out quick replies to emails and texts, listen to music, work on my to do list, make notes. If needed, I can also rebook my soon-to-be-missed connecting flight and any other downstream travel arrangements. And, inevitably, a friend from long ago usually texts me or messages me before I get on a flight. Someone I hadn’t heard from in years just pops out of the woodwork. So, then there’s that brief flurry. Sure, I lose time with travel delays, but with a smartphone, I don’t feel like I’ve lost too much productivity. Between my phone, a notebook (you know, the paper and pen kind), a bag of Swedish Fish, a bottle of water, and a book, I am soothed.

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    • Ah, technology to the rescue, Sherilyn! Perhaps we’re even more productive at the airport where co-workers or children or dogs cannot interrupt our flow! I’ve always said planes are like a mini-retreat for me. I am not expected to do anything while I am traveling–except travel–and so I can indulge in the pleasure of reading a book in the middle of the day without feeling guilty about it;-)

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